Coronavirus: New UK stats show vaccinated more than 30 times less likely to die than unvaccinated

Unvaccinated Brits this year were more than 30 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the vaccinated, new figures show. 

They were also three times more likely to die of any cause, according to analysis by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The UK has lost 140,000 people to COVID-19, about half of them last year and half this year. The ONS looked at cases reported between January 2 and September 24 this year, and found the "weekly age-standardised mortality rates for deaths involving COVID-19 were consistently lower for people who had received two vaccinations compared with one or no vaccinations". 

Like us, the UK prioritised the elderly in its vaccine rollout. Taking this into account, the ONS determined the unvaccinated were 32 times more likely to have died of COVID-19 than those with two jabs and nine-and-a-half times more likely than those with one. 

A graph of the weekly data shows a massive spike early in the year for the unvaccinated, when the Alpha variant tore through the UK which was largely unvaccinated at the time. Mortality falls to insignificant levels during the northern hemisphere summer, when the UK had few cases (the graph shows higher mortality rates for those with a single jab, which the ONS said was due to the high prevalence of elderly who were partially vaccinated at this stage of the rollout, but didn't receive their second doses due to health reasons or death). 

As the latest wave of cases begins, the mortality rate for the unvaccinated climbs while the line representing the vaccinated stays low. The mortality rate for the unvaccinated doesn't reach the same heights it did earlier in the year however, perhaps because hospitals aren't having to deal with as many patients thanks to the vaccinated. 

Graph showing adjusted weekly mortality.
Graph showing adjusted weekly mortality. Photo credit: ONS

There have been more cases picked up in the latest wave than in the deadly December/January surge, but only a fraction of the deaths thanks to the UK's successful vaccine rollout. At its peak, the December/January surge saw more than 1800 deaths in a single day. About 125 Brits are dying every day from COVID-19 at present.

The ONS data also shows for all deaths, the unvaccinated were three times as likely to die between January 2 and September 24 than the vaccinated, of any cause. One expert suggested this is not just because of COVID-19, but that the unvaccinated tend to belong to demographic groups that experience "higher mortality normally". 

"So the 32x might overstate the vaccine effect, but it's still going to be considerable," said John Roberts of the UK's COVID Actuaries Response Group.

The UK is using a few different vaccines in its rollout, with different levels of efficacy - but they all dramatically reduce the likelihood of infection, serious disease and passing on the virus.